STAFF PARTICIPATION IN POLITICAL ACTIVITIES
The following policy was presented for a first reading at the May 7, 2018 School Committee meeting and will be considered for adoption at the May 22, 2018 School Committee meeting.
The School Committee recognizes that employees of the school system have the same fundamental civic responsibilities and privileges as other citizens. Among these are campaigning for an elective public office and holding an elective or appointive office. Smithfield School Department employees are not prohibited by the Code of Ethics from participating in campaigning and fundraising activities on behalf of a political candidate, provided that they perform all such activities on their own time and without the use of any public resources, and that they not solicit any political contributions or mandated political action from subordinates or students.
In connection with campaigning and fundraising, an employee will not: use school system facilities, equipment or supplies; discuss his/her campaign or fundraising with school personnel or students during the school day; use any time during the school day for campaigning purposes. Under no circumstances, will students be pressured into campaigning for any staff member or affiliate.
School employees shall not engage in political activities during the school day or while performing work for the school department at any location.
“Political activities” include:
A. Campaigning for or against any candidate, political party or issue;
B. An employee’s using his/her position to attempt to influence students,
parents or others to vote for or against any candidate or issue;
C. Contacting students, parents or others for such purposes;
D. Wearing apparel with political messages or displaying campaign paraphernalia while performing work; or
E. Soliciting for or collecting funds or distributing material in connection with campaigning or support of political issues.
While it is appropriate for an employee who is a candidate for political office to provide employment information in a written profile, no school unit employee shall use the school unit’s name or logo to promote his/her candidacy for political office, or to promote other candidates or political positions, or represent his/her view as those of the school unit or the Smithfield School Committee. Exceptions include the Superintendent and others testifying before the legislature, boards, or commissions on issues of relevance to the School Department.
Prior permission shall be sought from the Superintendent for taking time from the work day for testifying before the legislature, boards, or commissions. Additionally, with exception of the Superintendent, persons testifying before the legislature, boards or commissions must speak solely on behalf of themselves, rather than as a representative of the School Department unless prior permission is granted by the School Committee.
Nothing in this policy shall preclude School Department employees from sharing factual information relevant to any issue being brought before voters, provided that the individual does not explicitly request that a certain vote be taken.
Nothing in this policy shall preclude the discussion of political or controversial issues or current events or exposure of mature students to candidates as guest speakers provided that such is done in compliance with the district’s policy on the teaching of controversial issues (IMB).
Nothing in this policy shall preclude the involvement of extra-curricular advisors in assisting student participation in extra- and co-curricular clubs and activities that promote political candidates or causes, provided that the impetus for the particular effort comes from the group of students involved and is directly related to their club or activity.
Nothing in this policy should be construed as precluding mock elections, debates, conventions or other simulated political activities, where the activity is intended as an educational experience.
Additional guidance can be found on the RI Ethics Commission website: www.ethics.ri.gov
Source: Adapted from MASC sample policy.
Legal Reference: Rhode Island Constitution Article III Section 7 - Ethical conduct RIGL § 36-14